Gordon Matta-Clark: David Zwirner/Zwirner & Wirth. (Reviews: New York)

By Richard, Frances | Artforum International, April 2002 | Go to article overview

Gordon Matta-Clark: David Zwirner/Zwirner & Wirth. (Reviews: New York)


Richard, Frances, Artforum International


Gordon Matta-Clark died young, but the life span of his large-scale architectural interventions was even shorter. Of the major site-specific "non-uments" realized in the period between his architectural studies at Cornell in the late '6os and his death from cancer in 1978, not one has escaped the wrecking crew. Since the work was fundamentally concerned with the physical experience of built space--a kinesthetic mix of void and mass, light and shadow, suburban saltbox or pier warehouse and phenomenological event--this poses problems for curators. Of course, Matta-Clark knew that the buildings he altered with his preternaturally delicate chainsaw were slated for less graceful deconstruction, and he documented the often dangerous process of filleting floors and ceilings in extensive drawings, films, and photocollages. Still, a gallery show of these archival materials cannot help but feel doubly ghostly: The career was brief, the artist is gone, and the work exists only as a feedback loop of secondary objects, sh oring up a core that has disappeared.

But the evacuated core was, in a sense, the point of Matta-Clark's project. This pair of exhibitions presented two aspects of his oeuvre: Zwirner & Wirth hosted a selection of "cut drawings" and works on paper dating from 1970-78; downtown at David Zwirner was a focused series of photocollages and drawings documenting A W-Hole House, an intervention Matta-Clark completed in Genoa in 1973. Swirling, ebullient, quasi-mathematical, the works on paper uptown seem to center on an energized vacuum, as if the Magic Marker and pencil strokes were pushing into air. Indeed, the cut drawings, stacks of heavy paper gouged with rough-edged geometric excisions, are explicitly sculptural. The revealed strata--in gradations of cream, tan, and dark orange--suggest layers of plaster, paint, and wallpaper, or dermis and epidermis, a conflation of bodily and architectural structure that constantly reasserts its simple reality as a stack of hacked cardboard. …

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